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Science and Technology Committee calls on Government to launch a field trial of GM insects

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has published its report on 'Genetically Modified Insects' and is calling on the UK Government to launch a field trial of GM insects.

Commenting on the report, the Earl of Selborne, Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, said:

"GM insect technologies have the potential not only to save countless lives worldwide, but also to generate significant economic benefits for UK plc, where we are an acknowledged world leader.

"But the development of GM insect technologies has come to a screeching halt because the EU regulatory system is woefully inadequate. Until we can get a regulatory framework that will do justice to this area of scientific research, its wings are effectively clipped.

"Our report concludes that the UK Government has a moral duty to test the potential of this technology, for the long-term benefit of those countries where diseases like dengue and malaria are indiscriminate killers.

"So as a first step towards that goal, we urge the Government to initiate field trials to put not only the science but, crucially, the regulations to the test. This trial could also be a focus to increase public engagement in the area.

"We strongly believe that action needs to be taken now to breathe new life into this policy area. While we acknowledge that the science may not be a silver bullet in the fight against fatal disease and threats to food security, it could prove to be an invaluable addition to our armoury.

"With a Government-backed field trial, an informed public, and regulation that is fit for purpose, and no longer failing lamentably, we will be in a much better position to realise the enormous potential of GM insects."


The recommendations of this report are particularly relevant to Oxitec, a pioneer in using genetic engineering to control insect pests that spread disease and damage crops, founded in 2002 as a spinout from Oxford University (UK).

In a news release, Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry said, "We are delighted that the House of Lords, following a highly rigorous process, has come out with such a strong statement of support. Our focus has always been on helping to stop mosquito borne diseases, but like us, the Committee also recognises the considerable potential in agriculture. We urge the UK Government to act on the direction of this report and help us bring this approach to countries labouring under the threat of diseases such as Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika Virus."


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